Let's Go (pony)

You may or may not realize it, but you've heard "Let's Go" by The Routers recently. If you're a sports fan, you hear at least an excerpt of the song all the time, along with everyone else who's followed big league or not-so-big sporting events, whether in person or on radio or televison, since 1962. It's one of a handful of songs that fit in with the call to "charge" and have won a permanent place in the legend of sports.

A core group of Los Angeles studio musicians were called on for the majority of that city's session work in the '50s and '60s, and it was commonplace for a recording session to happen first, determination of the group name that would appear on the label second, and in the event of a hit, the recruiting of a touring band, different from the studio players, third. Such was the case with The Routers, produced by Joe Saraceno, who had worked with The Beach Boys at their beginning and guided The Marketts to chart success earlier in 1962 with "Surfer's Stomp" and "Balboa Blue." Michael Z. Gordon multitasked as songwriter, guitar player and sometime producer on recordings by both groups, with seasoned studio men making up the remainder of the oft-changing lineup: Plas Johnson on sax, Earl Palmer on drums, with later involvement by pianist Leon Russell, guitarist Tommy Tedesco and drummer Hal Blaine, in addition to Rene Hall, brought in as an arranger on many Routers sessions. Look closely at the labels of 45s from the mid-'50s on and you'll see these names over and over...yet they were only credited a small percentage of the time!

The first single's working title was "Let's Go," but "(pony)" was added, since it used the same beat and basic chord structure as Don Covay and John Berry's "Pony Time" (first recorded by Covay's group The Goodtimers and also by Chubby Checker, who took it to number one) and would tie into the popular dance, helping its chances of becoming a hit. Turns out it wasn't necessary, the song's fate was not connected to a dance of any kind. The album released shortly after was titled Let's Go! With the Routers, downplaying the pony aspect, with a cover photo of three cheerleaders jumping in the air. That tie-in was not an exaggeration, as cheerleaders across the nation had begun using the song's clap-and-shout opening and before long the actual recording was being played at major sporting events, as it still is today.

A follow-up single, "Sting Ray," took advantage of the car craze (a close cousin to the wave of surf hits around that time) and hit the charts in 1963. Saraceno continued producing The Routers (as well as Marketts records, with an overlapping lineup of musicians) for another year or two, and attempted at least one comeback for the group in the 1970s.

The everlasting "Let's Go (pony)" was composed by Lanny and Robert Duncan. If you're a football fan, the song would seem to be facing off against Queen's "We Will Rock You" for most-played, clapped-with and stomped-to honors. For baseball fans its strongest competition is "Zorba the Greek" by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass and Harry Belafonte's 'Day-O' call from "Banana Boat (Day-O)." Every day. Gotta love those royalty checks!

- Michael Jack Kirby


Let's Go